The arguments are both economic and environmental. The German group Werner & Mertz, owner of the Rainett brand, has just launched production in France of its ecological detergent intended for the French market. It is subcontracted to a manufacturer who wishes to remain anonymous for the moment, assures Benoît Renauld, General Manager France of Rainett. “We have been working on the subject for several years, but we had to find an industrialist who respected our specifications and was at the same time as competitive as in Germany,” he explains.
44 tonnes of CO2 saved
Given the volumes involved, creating a factory ex nihilo was never an option. Last year, Rainett sold 1.5 million washing powder refills in France. The packaging will continue to come from Germany, but the group does not rule out contracting in the long term with a French operator, if it meets the same requirements as those set by the group. Werner & Mertz, a family business from the Rhineland whose fifth generation is in power, was thus one of the first players in the sector to commit to reducing the use of plastics. By 2025, it has pledged that all of its packaging will come from recycled materials.
Today, the products that come from the German factory are transported annually in 250 trucks. From now on, 4 trucks will be enough to bring the refill pockets. “This represents 44 tonnes of CO2 saved with 77,000 kilometers less on the roads”, assures the French boss.
The laundry detergent market is fiercely competitive, with very powerful multinationals like Unilever and Procter & Gamble. The organic laundry detergent niche, which represents around 8% of sales, with French players such as l’Arbre vert or Maison verte, the latter bought in 2021 by the German Henkel. “Consumers are increasingly looking for locally made products. We also needed to get started to increase our market share,” says Benoît Renauld.
Strong price pressures
But production in France will not make it possible to lower prices, the savings made in transport only offsetting a slightly higher cost price, due to the use of subcontracting. The pricing issue is sensitive for producers of organic laundry detergent, who have had to cope for two years with soaring prices for their inputs, mainly from rapeseed, sunflower and olive oil waste.
“We are forced to compress our margins, because we cannot pass on all the increases“says Rainett’s France director. The brand thus had to face, last year, a decline in its sales, linked in particular to a delisting in certain brands.
For their part, more and more consumers are interested in the prices of items rather than the composition of products. Private labels were the first to benefit, with a market share that rose from 14% to 18% last year.
However, Rainett executives hope that the blue white red logo now affixed to their refills will protect them somewhat from the price fight.
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